UCLA vs. Stanford: Most Important Players in Pac-12 Championship Game

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UCLA vs. Stanford: Most Important Players in Pac-12 Championship Game
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Pac-12 Championship Game features two teams that know each other well after playing just one week before.

In the last game of the regular season, Stanford defeated UCLA 35-17 in Pasadena. 

With the win, the Cardinal earned the right to host the conference title game at Stanford Stadium, where the team is undefeated this season. 

UCLA will try to prove that the last game was a fluke, but things will not be easy with a bid to the Rose Bowl on the line. 

In a game this close, a few key players will decide the outcome with their performance on Friday.

 

Stanford

Kevin Hogan, QB

After trusting Josh Nunes for most of the season, Kevin Hogan is the quarterback that will try to lead this team to the BCS.

The freshman does a lot of things that Nunes can't, like using his legs to create more opportunities. In addition, he has been incredibly accurate, completing 73 percent of his passes so far.

Unfortunately, for all of his good qualities, he still lacks experience.

You know what you are going to get out of senior running back Stepfan Taylor. He has been amazing in the last two weeks and totaled 303 rushing yards in the two biggest wins of the season over Oregon and UCLA. 

He should once again be solid, but it will not matter if Hogan struggles. The quarterback needs to continue to throw with accuracy and make sure he does not kill drives with turnovers.

If he just plays within himself, he should help his offense score quite a bit against a defense that allows 25.8 points per game.

 

Ed Reynolds, S

With Tyrann Mathieu no longer playing, Ed Reynolds might be the best defensive back playmaker in the nation.

The safety has five interceptions this year, but more importantly makes things happen once he gets the ball in his hands.

He has returned three picks for touchdowns and leads the nation with 221 yards off interception returns. 

Even when he does not get the turnover, he is still a disruption with 10 passes defended this year.

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley does not throw many interceptions, but he did throw four in a loss to California earlier in the year. Reynolds needs to force him to replicate this performance and give his offense a short field.

In this matchup, the sophomore can be a big factor in the momentum of a game. 

 

UCLA

Johnathan Franklin, RB

No one is more important offensively for UCLA than Johnathan Franklin.

The running back has been outstanding all year with 1,506 rushing yards, good for eighth-most in the country. He has topped 100 rushing yards in eight of the 12 games this season.

Unfortunately, he was virtually shut down by Stanford in the last game. He was only able to manage 65 yards on 21 carries, although he did have an 11-yard touchdown run.

Stanford has an elite defense, but he needs to be able to find gaps in order to help his team move the football.

If the Cardinal can stop Franklin once again on Friday, UCLA does not have much hope.

 

Anthony Barr, LB

There are few players in football more versatile than Anthony Barr.

With 12 sacks on the year, he is one of the top pass-rushers in the nation. However, he can also make plays in other areas with 66 tackles on the year and 19 tackles for a loss.

In addition, he has forced four fumbles while also performing well in the passing game with five passes defended. Just for good measure, he can also block kicks.

The former running back has been outstanding in his new position, and can cause some major disturbances for opposing offenses.

As well as Kevin Hogan has played for Stanford, he has only appeared in a few games in his collegiate career. Barr needs to rattle him early to make it a long day for the Cardinal as UCLA leaves with a conference championship.

 

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